There's no doubt about it-Frisbees are flying. "We even spin Frisbees on our fingers while we watch TV," says Arthur Kiron of Wilson High School's championship team.
There's Ultimate Frisbee, Disc Golf, freestyling. But before it caught on, there was Mr. Frisbie. According to chronicler Stancil E. D. Johnson, in his definitive book, "Frisbee," the sport started some time after 1871, when Willuam Russell Frisbie opened a bakery in New Haven. Yale students bought pies and cookies from the Frisbie Pie Company and began tossing the pie tins and cookie tin lids around, presumably after devouring the contents. The thrower would yell "Frisbie!" to warn the catcher. And so it started.
In 1948 West Coast inventor Red Morrison made a plstic version of the old pie tin and in 1955 the Wham-O company bought it. While they were trying to market their new product, the Wham-O people found that students on Ivy League campuses had been tossing pie tins around for years and calling it Frisbie-ing. They liked the name but didn't know its origin, so they misspelled history and called their product a "Frisbee."
In the early 1960s Ed Headrick of Wham-O developed a professional model Frisbee and organized the International Frisbee Association (IFA).Several games were developed for competition. By the mid '70s the sport had its own magazine, "Frisbee World," freestyle throwing champions and national tournaments, although most activity centered on the West Coast. Today Frisbee is popular all over. There is even a small but determined group working to make it an Olympic sport.
To the uninitiated, any plastic disc for throwing is a Frisbee, but devotees can tell you that there are different kinds of different purposes. Until recently Wham-O discs dominated the market, but competitors sprang up and marketed successful Frisbees, so Wham-O now calls it product a Frisbee Disc and its IFA affiliates Frisbee Disc clubs. The local IFA organization is the Washington Area Frisbee Disc Club, which has about 170 members.
But so much for its development. The newest fad in Frisbee flipping is Frisbee football, or "Ultimate," as it is known in hish schools and on college campuses. This is Wilson High School's team forte: They won Ultimate's National Collegiate Championship back in 1977.
This sport has a distinctive, light-spirited charm. Uniforms are cut-offs, old T-shirts (sometimes tie-dyed or hand-stenciled team shirts), sweaty headbands and soccer cleats. It's a "gentleman's game": There are no referees. Team captains settle disputes and substitutions are informal. There are seven players on a side and the object is to throw the Frisbee over the opposing team's goal line. An official Ultimate field is 120 yards long and 40 yards wide. Speed and stamina count: Passing and blocking during the 24 minute halves, players are constantly moving, which is why Ultimate players are usually young and very energetic.
Another Frisbee game, not quite as popular as Ultimate, but a lot crazier, is Guts. Here, five-person teams throw the Frisbee as hard as possible at each other. There aren't too many sober Guts enthusiasts. More sedate players prefer Double Disc Court (DDC), which can be played indoors or out. Two-person teams keep two Frisbees flying at the same time. The object is to drop the discs into the opponents' court without touching court lines or the foul barrier, a long stick which acts as a sort of tennis net.
Group-sport fans will find that almost every sport has been adapted for Frisbee, from Netbee (a derivative of hockey and soccer) to Street Frisbee (dodgeball) to Basebee.
This spring a new derivative sport will be introduced in the Washington area-Frisbee golf, otherwise known as folf or Disc Golf. Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority will operate Disc Golf courses at Bull Run Park, in Pohick Bay Regional Park near Lorton, and at Algonkian Regional Park on the Fairfax-Loudoun County line. (Algonkian's is still under construction.) It's all there, just like golf-18 holes, tees, fairways and hazards. All you have to do is throw the Frisbees over, under, around or through the hazards and into a chain basket on a pole. Sound simple, but it isn't as you can see for yourself at a Disc Golf tournament at Bull Run April 14.
You can even set up your own Frisbee golf course in your backyard-with a few trees, a picnic table or some other large objects and a little imagination.
The Frisbee world is wide, so there's plenty of room for Frisbee fanciers who don't like games and prefer to polish their throwing skill. Some of these folks become freestylers, developing regular routines to demonstrate the fluency, flow, style, variety and difficulty of various throws and catches. Watching freestylers go through their paces is like watching figure skaters perform, and can he breathtaking.
Others concentrate on distance throwing.(The world record is 412 feet.) Still others compete at Self-Caught Flight (SCF), an event where competitors are judged by flight time, and the distance they have to travel to catch their own Frisbees with one hand.